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  Four Gentlemen and Three Friends of Winter Blog  
  Many Chinese art themes were borrowed by Japanese artists. Two of these themes are called shikunshi 四君子 (i.e., four gentlemen) and saikan sanyū 歳寒三友 (i.e., three friends of winter).

The four gentlemen are four plants whose qualities remind the Chinese of virtuous men (i.e., gentlemen). One "gentleman" is the plum (Prunus mume) which flowers under often adverse conditions (i.e, late winter). The second "gentleman" is the chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum sp.) which is also able to withstand adversity, flowering in late autumn or early winter. The third "gentleman" is an orchid (Cymbidium sp.) whose form and fragrance is never overpowering, symbolizing humility. The fourth "gentleman" is the bamboo (Family Poaceae) which shows both upright integrity and flexibility. These "four gentlemen" are shown below, in this case drawn by the Japanese artist Unzan Yamazaki who included them in a picture album published in 1880 with the title Unzan Gafu (I.e., Picture Album by Unzan). This picture album is part of the Reader Collection of Japanese Flower-and-Bird Art. Each of the woodblock-printed pictures in the album is 90 x 150 mm. Unzan's style of drawing is typical of the Japanese and Chinese artists who chose to depict the "four gentlemen".
  Four Gentlemen  
  The three friends of winter are three plants which retain their vigour during the cold months of winter. The first two "friends" – the pine tree (Pinus sp.) and bamboo (Family Poaceae) - keep their leaves during winter instead of shedding them like most other plants. The third "friend" – the plum tree (Prunus mume) – flowers in late winter, enduring both cold temperatures and snow. In the picture below the Japanese artist Tōshi Yoshida shows the "three friends" side by side in a three-parted picture (i.e., triptych) entitled the friendly garden. Published in 1980, each of the three pictures is 260 x 520 mm. They are also part of the Reader Collection of Japanese Flower-and-Bird Art.  

Three Friends of Winter


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